By Ashley Alt
Art is something inherent to all of humanity. The fact that we gravitate toward it when we need inspiration, hope or encouragement shows us that you don’t have to be an “artist” to create or appreciate art because we are all artists. And the moment that beauty is stripped away is the moment that our development which makes us human is lost.
For that reason, The Simple Good was founded to keep the magic of creating alive.
One Chicago native traveled the world with the mission to help those less fortunate than her and Priya Shah, this world traveler and Founder of The Simple Good, had no idea that her simple act of sharing art could be spread that far.
The Simple Good is a non-profit organization that helps at-risk children of Chicago learn to see their version of “a simple good” in their environments, with the mission of empowering youth to be forces of positive change in their communities.
Promoting positive activism shows that simple acts are not to be underestimated. This organization that started as a creative platform for children has become an influential, therapeutic program of spreading kindness across the globe, challenging you to think about what’s good in your life and giving you encouragement about what lies ahead.
How did it start?
While working her corporate job, Priya started a photoblog of her travels around the world, highlighting her “simple good” stories and asking others to submit their own “simple good” photos. After just one week of being posted, the blog went viral. Priya started getting photos from China, Spain and Cuba, and even received a writeup from an Italian newspaper talking about her inspirational blog.
The 50-photo blog page was spurred from Priya working in slums around the world including Mother Theresa’s orphanage in India and nonprofits in South Africa. The reflections coming back from those experiences and travels made Priya alarmingly aware of the way these less-fortunate communities appreciated the smallest things in their lives, leading her to start The Simple Good.
“I realized no matter what walk of life these people were from, I was able to connect with all of them,” Priya tells us. “There was a certain universality of humanity that connected all of them and at the end of the day, good is the same to all of us.”
The value that she saw throughout her abroad journeys was mostly in children, who seemed to have a strong sense of resilience and hope given their living conditions. Upon realizing there wasn’t a platform to express the good things that happen to us, Priya felt compelled to create something to connect people.
“My whole purpose of this was to talk about this topic face to face,” she says. “Allow this as a connection point for us to break barriers.”
The Simple Good programs
Wanting to bring this topic to communities that needed it most, specifically to children that didn’t have an opportunity to express their idea of positivity in the world, Priya got in touch with elementary school teachers on the Southside of Chicago to present her idea. After seeing the positive effects the experiment had on students, teachers actually began building the Simple Good project into their curriculum.
Priya visits classrooms showing students how they can find inspiration within the adversity that they go through. She found that it not only created this piece of calm within children, but aided in brain development in social and behavioral areas also, as it allowed the students to digest things in their own way versus someone telling them how to think.
“Whether you’re from an affluent community or an at-risk community, you’re going through things that you don’t understand in the world,” Priya said. “Creating distractors doesn’t enable children to connect to a new person or accept new cultures or new ways of thinking.”
Priya, along with everyone involved with The Simple Good program, saw how powerful exchanging simple good stories can be, as it allowed these students to deal with the process of coping in a completely pure and positive way. They realized that this was not just an art program, but a program that immensely helped kids’ self-esteem while learning empathy and connectivity skills.
“Whether your simple good is your favorite cartoon character or something in nature, it’s about finding ways to happiness so that you can continue to move forward,” Priya says.
Spreading The Simple Good everywhere
The goal is to offer this program in cities internationally, creating a platform for students to talk to each other on their ideas of the simple good through art exchanges. Priya stressed the importance of kids having global competency so they can see how they are a very small part of a much larger world, reassuring them that the chaos they are in right now isn’t the end.
“People don’t frame art as essential so it’s disregarded pretty quickly,” Priya stated. “There is no belief system around art, but when you look at the history of religion and beautiful monuments around the world, art is the sacred part of understanding society, and without it, you find broken societies.”